Today was a historic day for Azurvale, as well as the Ishigar Republic as a whole. It marked the end of a social stigma that had plagued these lands ever since the days of the oppressive regime that was the Dominion. That said, one wouldn’t be able to tell this if they simply walked the streets and talked to people. So what if the first same-sex marriage in centuries was about to take place? That wouldn’t put food on people’s tables or keep a roof over their head, so they weren’t too bothered about it. There were citizens that cared immensely about it, of course, but they seemed to be in the minority.
The fact that the one getting married was Keira Morgana, though? Now that was something that interested them. The catgirl had more or less become Azurvale’s sweetheart by now, mostly due to her pivotal role in solving the tragedy of the Great Collapse. Or so the masses were led to believe, at least. Self-proclaimed star reporter Daylor Varic still clung to the idea that the whole thing was an orchestrated hoax, but he had given up on trying to expose the red-headed Hero. Not only had his efforts over the past few weeks turned up zero evidence to suggest Morgana was hiding something, but the stress of staking out such a high-profile target was finally getting to him.
So, in the end, the man had decided it wasn’t worth it, and was now focused on reporting on the celebrity wedding itself. As one might imagine from such a large affair, the event had attracted all manner of prominent figure, both from within the Republic and beyond. Elves, humans, beastkin, dwarves, gnomes, raptors, even a few krymer dignitaries and a handful of nosferatu were present. The sheer variety of people attending made the whole thing feel like some kind of circus. The only thing that seemed to connect all these people was that they had, in one way or another, become closely acquainted with the Hero of Chaos over the past few years.
It therefore came as no surprise that a few other Heroes seemed to be in attendance seemingly by pure coincidence. Orrin and Sigmund hadn’t exactly been on the guest list and the wedding planners hadn’t accounted for their presence - especially in the giant’s case - but they were allowed to witness the proceedings all the same. Thankfully Sigmund’s armor and Orrin’s priestly robes looked ceremonial enough to pass off as adequate outfits for the formal affair. Gux and his worn traveler’s clothes were another story entirely, but the old lizard was nowhere to be seen, having decided to observe the proceedings remotely through his Ultimate Skill.
That said, the Inquisitor and the giant didn’t seem to be here for the wedding itself, judging by their conversation.
“Wait, he actually came through?” Sigmund asked in disbelief. “I was certain he was just going to scam you out of your treasures.”
“Indeed,” Orrin nodded. “I expected trickery as well, but his reputation for being a professional first and foremost seems to be well-earned.”
“I guess even scumbags like this ‘Sandman’ have their uses.”
The two of them were currently in a relatively secluded corner of the reception area in front of the grand temple of Nyrie where the actual wedding ceremony would take place. It was hardly the most secure place to have this discussion, but neither of them felt like they had anything to hide.
“So… who was the ‘lucky’ one to use the item first?” Sigmund raised an eyebrow.
“Björn, Solus bless his soul, insisted that he be the vanguard, as per usual. He was also the one among my comrades who would benefit most from it.”
“And the result?”
“See for yourself.”
Orrin retrieved an inscribed gemstone from inside his robes and held it out in the sunlight. This caused a small illusory replica of Björn’s new look to sprout from it. His flesh, bones, and blood had been replaced with steel, gears, and flame, respectively. This transformation was made possible by the spherical relics the Sandman had sold to the giants shortly before the shapeshifter engaged the Rank Up process. Boxxy had remembered Orrin’s request during the Hero meeting and had decided it might as well take advantage of the giants’ desperation to add some of their sacred treasures to its hoard without much hassle.
For what it was worth, Orrin felt that he had gotten a pretty good deal, even with the steep asking price. He didn’t even question how and when the Sandman might’ve acquired those ‘golem eggs’ and simply waved it off as a form of divine providence. All that mattered was that Orrin’s group had gotten everything they could’ve hoped for and more. The Warrior called Björn had become an imposing furnace golem whose intense flames promised to turn legions of undead to ash and cinders. The scaled-down still image that Orrin was holding could hardly convey what it was like to actually stand in Björn’s presence, but Sigmund had correctly guessed that he was many times more fearsome in person.
“Woah, that’s pretty cool!”
An oddly familiar voice startled both men, nearly making Orrin drop the magical gemstone he was holding. They looked down to see an almost unbelievably beautiful pale-skinned girl in a heavy cloak, who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. She was currently gawking at the illusory image like a child witnessing magic for the first time.
“Who might you be, young lady?” the giant asked sternly as he put away his trinket.
“What d’you mean?” the girl looked confused for a second. “Oh, right. Neither of you have seen me without this thing on.”
She then pulled a pearly-white skull mask from underneath her hood.
“Kaede?!” Sigmund blurted out.
“How rude,” she pouted. “Don’t just shout someone else’s name, old man. I’m trying to keep a low profile here.”
“R-right. Sorry. I just didn’t expect you to be so… y’know…”
“Not hideous?” she smirked.
“It’s fine, you’ll get used to it. What’s with that badass-looking uncle you were looking at, though? Is that part of your plan to retake the giants’ homeland?”
The two of them momentarily wondered how she even caught wind of that, but realized asking about it would probably get them nowhere.
“That’s right,” Orrin answered grimly. “About a week ago one of Keira’s acquaintances sold us a curious relic he called a ‘golem egg.’ It has the ability to turn people into golems while also allowing them to retain their sense of self.”
“Neat,” she casually remarked. “So what are they going to do when you beat up the Bonershaper and you get your land back?”
“I… uh…” the giant stammered.
“He looks kinda like Fizzy,” Kaede continued. “That means he’s not just any golem, but a war golem. And from what I know, that name isn’t just for show. They kinda live for war, and get super pissy if they don’t have enough of it. So what are you going to do when you run out of undead to wage war on?”
It was impossible to deny that the radiant construct in question had gone to fight the orcs on Velos just because she, in her own words, ‘needed skulls to bash to scratch her itchy servos.’ Admittedly that wasn’t entirely true, but it was still a little-known fact that she constantly had to keep her violent impulses in check. There was no way someone with that sort of disposition would be able to lead a peaceful life. Which, given a golem’s ageless nature, could be a really long time.
“We’ll figure that out when we get to it,” Orrin regained his composure. “Though you perhaps have a point that we should be… moderate with our conversions.”
“Uh-huh. Just make sure you don’t create more work for me. I’m already super busy as it is.”
Kaede wasn’t being entirely honest with that statement. In truth, her workload as the Hero of Death was akin to that of a rebellious teenager whose only real responsibility was to take out the trash and occasionally sweep the house. Her warning had been genuine, she just didn’t want to appear incompetent or inadequate in front of her peers. Especially since, while snooping around out of habit, she had gotten a glimpse at Keira getting ready for the ceremony and had noticed that her true name was no longer ‘Boxxy T. Morningwood’ and her HP total was now a much more reasonable number. She had no idea what to make of that, but her gut instinct told her she had noticed something she wasn’t supposed to notice. She quickly arrived at the conclusion that it was better to keep playing dumb rather than asking questions she probably didn’t want to know the answers to, but the revelation had still shaken her up a bit.
“Oh? I think I see a familiar face,” Sigmund declared while squinting over the crowd. “We’ll talk about this golem matter later, Orrin. I have a personal matter to attend to.”
Elsewhere in the reception area, Nao had just arrived along with the nephilim triplets. The wolfkin was wearing an extremely colorful and extravagant robe that bordered on being an eyesore. He stood out like a sore thumb to say the least, though it wasn’t just his attire that garnered attention. There was also the fact that he was being accompanied by three stunning blonde beauties all of whom clearly had bellies full of kids. Admittedly that alone was hardly scandalous, but with Maddie and Lydia clinging to an arm each and Robin hovering directly behind him, it was painfully clear exactly what was going on.
Truth be told, Nao had expected people to give him dirty looks. He showed up to the wedding fully prepared to be judged by outsiders who had no idea what his circumstances were. He had not, however, foreseen what was about to happen. The Hero of Magic was in the process of having Madeline happily feed him one of the appetizers from the banquet table when he felt a dark shadow loom over him.
He then nearly choked on the tiny sandwich in his mouth when he heard Lydia say those words. He turned around on his heel and confirmed with a pale face that the Hero of Justice was, in fact, standing right next to him. And judging by the look on Sigmund’s face, he wasn’t exactly here to congratulate Nao on his impending fatherhood. The fact that he was decked out in full Paladin armor was hardly encouraging, either.
“Uh, h-hi there Sig- Sigmund,” he stammered. “F-f-fancy seeing you here! Is there, uh, something I can h-help you with?”
“So,” Sigmund finally spoke, “you are planning to take responsibility for your actions, yes?”
“Uh… Um.. Wh- What?”
The man leaned over the much shorter wolfkin and placed an armored hand on his shoulder. He was sweating profusely by this point. It was also the moment when Nao realized that the triplets had carried out what could only be described as a ‘tactical retreat’ and were now several meters away from him. He glanced at them, begging for help with his eyes, but all he got in response were polite business-like smiles and a rather unconvincing whisper of ‘You can do it!’ That and Lydia seemed to be preparing her healing magic, which was both reassuring and not.
“My girls are bearing your children. It is therefore your duty as a man to secure their hands in holy matrimony.”
His voice was low, flat, and deathly serious.
“… All of them?”
“Of course. Or are you implying any of them is unworthy of you?”
“Th-there’s no such thing! I would be more than happy to take any - or, indeed, all of - those wonderful women as my wives!”
“Then why haven’t you done so yet?”
“It’s, it’s just that, uh, this was all a bit… sudden! Yes, sudden! That and, uh, well…”
“Well… what?” Sigmund practically snarled.
“P-p-p-polygamy isn’t really a thing that’s, uh, allowed… where I’m from…”
There were a few members of the Sovereign States Alliance where the practice was legal, but those were the exception, and Nao’s home wasn’t among them.
“And?” Sigmund raised an eyebrow. “Women weren’t allowed to marry other women here in the Republic, yet that’s precisely what’s happening here.”
“W-well, yes, but, I’m not Keira, you know?” Nao tried to reason with him. “I don’t have the sort of-”
“So you’re saying you’d rather have my girls raise their children as bastards?”
Nao’s mouth began to open and close while his throat made noises, but none of those sounds could be classified as words. He started hyperventilating and his face grew paler to the point where it seemed as if he was about to pass out. Sigmund was Teresa’s Hero and the Grand Inquisitor. He was someone who stared down the Empire’s corrupt nobles without flinching and, if rumors are to be believed, even punched the young Emperor himself without a moment’s hesitation. There was no way that Nao, who had spent most of his life as a spineless introvert, could stand up to someone that intimidating.
In the end he had little choice but to agree to Sigmund’s ‘request’ that he single handedly reforge the Pearly Dunes’ marital laws to allow for polyamorous relationships. He would later find out that the desert city of Emerald, which he was a citizen of, would be more than happy to make an exception for him, given that he was a Hero and all. He didn’t know that yet, though. When Sigmund finally released him from his iron grip, Nao wound up sulking in a corner and would remain that way for most of the day’s proceedings.
The triplets tried to console him, of course.
“Way to go, babe!” Maddie cheered. “I haven’t seen anyone stand up to uncle Sigmund like that!”
“Indeed,” Lydia nodded while patting his back. “You did well to avoid passing out and soiling yourself.”
“And keeping your face intact,” Robin chimed in. “I was half expecting you to end up with a fist-shaped scar or something, but you somehow got out of it without so much as a bloody nose.”
Needless to say, their attempts weren’t very successful. The disturbance caused by Sigmund’s parental intervention had caused a bit of a ruckus, but it was far from the only incident that had occurred. The problem with having such a large and varied guest list was that disagreements were bound to crop up. Some of Keira’s adventurer acquaintances had even gotten into a rather heated fistfight in another part of the outdoor reception area, but that level of rowdiness was only to be expected.
Of course, that didn’t mean everyone was fine with it.
“Ugh, seriously?!” Lia complained as she watched the brawl unfold. “After I warned them, too!”
The young elven Ranger had been given the honor of serving as Keira’s maid of honor. It was only to be expected given that she had been the first real friend the beastkin had made after arriving in Azurvale, excluding Rowana. Granted, their relationship had been a bit strained to say the least, but Lia wasn’t the sort of person to abandon a friend on their wedding day. It was how she found herself in one of the temple’s upper chambers, looking down at the rowdy guests while shaking her head.
“They’ll be fine, don’t worry about ‘em,” Keira told her from the other end of the room. “I’d rather you come over here and help me with this dress.”
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask about that,” Lia remarked as she pulled away from the window. “Are you sure that’s a wedding dress?”
“Why? What’s wrong with it?” the redhead asked in a confused tone.
“Well… How should I say this…”
Though it certainly had the delicate white fabric and long veil of traditional wedding garb, the design itself was rather… daring. The garment was almost entirely backless, showed off a good amount of cleavage, and had generous thigh slits in the skirt area. The outfit also included thigh-high stockings and long thin gloves decorated with flower-themed frills and ribbons. The end of Keira’s tail even sported a cute little bow, which poked out from under the multi-sectioned and slightly transparent skirt.
“It just seems a bit slutty to me,” Lia gave her honest opinion.
“Oh, for sure,” the redhead agreed. “I can’t complain, though. I let Rowie choose our dresses, and now I have to live with the consequences. Besides, it’s hardly the most ridiculous thing she’s had me wear.”
That shimmering red mini-dress that could not stay on without magical assistance came to mind, among other things.
“Now come over here and help me out.”
“With what?” Lia asked as she looked the catgirl over. “You seem to have everything under control.”
“I need you to tell me if you spot something out of place.”
“Not really… Wait… What’s that thing on your hip?” the elf narrowed her eyes. “Is… Is that a knife?!”
“Tsk,” Keira clicked her tongue. “So it’s visible after all, huh?”
“Why are you trying to hide a knife in your dress?!”
“… Force of habit?”
“What? You never know what could happen!”
“Your guests have enough power between them to conquer a small kingdom! Do you really think that tiny knife is going to make a difference if something happens that they can’t handle?!”
“Look, I just need it to feel safe and calm down, okay,” the redhead said pleadingly.
Those words struck Lia with the odd sense that there was more to this than just ‘Keira being Keira.’
“Did something happen to make you extra paranoid?” she asked out of genuine concern.
“Not really… It’s just pre-wedding jitters, I guess.”
This wasn’t entirely true. The truth of the matter was that something quite troublesome had indeed happened about two weeks ago. Keira had been out on the town with Rowana and had returned home to find that many of her magic items and valuables had been stolen. Even worse, there hadn’t been any signs of a break-in. Whoever had been responsible had walked in like they owned the place, had gotten what they wanted with no difficulty, and had left the premises just as easily.
And Keira knew this for a fact, because that was exactly what Manny, Snek, and some of the other house mimics had told her when she questioned them. Someone had assumed the redhead’s appearance and used it to rob her blind with zero difficulty. It was only natural that both her and Rowana would be shaken by such an extreme violation of privacy. The fact that this impostor was able to impersonate Keira well enough to bamboozle a house full of strangely perceptive mimics was far more troubling than the actual theft.
Being the sharp-minded adventurer she was designed to be, Keira was able to determine that the one responsible was, in fact, the Sandman. Or the Sandman’s succubus-like familiar, if she had to be more specific. The beastkin couldn’t imagine anyone else with both the opportunity, ability, and motive to do such a thing. She had no intention of chasing after the masked vigilante, however. Sure, he had stolen a number of Artifact-grade items from her, but those were never truly hers to begin with.
According to Jerome’s implanted memories, Keira and the Sandman had a certain mutually beneficial understanding. As part of this imaginary agreement, the intimidating Warlock had taken the beastkin on a number of successful dungeon raids, during which he and his familiars handled most of the heavy lifting. Not only had the beastkin’s Levels grown immensely as a result, but she had also been allowed to keep most of the spoils from these expeditions. This had been the ‘official’ story of how Keira had risen to wealth and prominence so quickly.
What the catgirl had to do in return was to promise two things. The first was that she’d leverage her position as the Republic’s favorite Hero to help out the Sandman in a number of innocuous ways. The other was that, when the time was right, the Warlock would reclaim those Artifacts he’d more or less gifted her. And after considering that the Dragon Festival was mere days away, Keira concluded that the Sandman had collected on her debt since he intended to participate. She naturally wished the bastard had at least warned her he was taking those, but it couldn’t be helped now.
The bottom line was that the supposed agreement between the two was now null and void. On the upside, Keira was sure that the Sandman wouldn’t ‘steal’ from her again. The mercenary might have had loose morals, but he was a professional first and foremost, and had stated he would no longer interfere with the redhead’s life once he was ‘done’ with her. The downside to this was that the beastkin could no longer rely on her shadowy benefactor to back her up on dangerous missions. Combined with her sudden shortage of powerful equipment, Keira had reached an inevitable conclusion.
It was time for the Hero of Chaos to retire from active adventuring. Or, well, semi-retire, at the least. She would continue teaching her scouting course and could take on a small Quest every now and then, but only to pay the bills. She would avoid going on month-long expeditions and death-defying adventures if at all possible. True, such risks typically allowed one to earn substantial rewards, but those weren’t really worth it anymore. Keira was about to achieve her dream of marrying the woman she loved. The only aspiration she had beyond that was to live a safe and comfortable life with Rowana, which she could easily do with the achievements she’d racked up until now. There simply wasn’t a reason for her to challenge monsters, dungeons, or outlaws.
Which wasn’t to say that Keira was defenseless. Though she wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as when she was Boxxy’s Facade, her artificially created soul had ‘inherited’ a number of the shapeshifter’s traits. She was every bit as observant, resourceful, tenacious, and quick-witted as that anomalous box. True, her body lacked its ridiculous Attributes, but she had all the reflexes and muscle memory to make use of all her abilities. Of which she had plenty, as she was given copies of Boxxy’s Ranger, Blade Dancer, Flamespitter Artificer, and Alchemist Jobs, along with all of the relevant Skills and Perks. The only thing missing was the Level 50 Wizard Job, which she had been led to believe she had removed of her own accord due to concerns over power creep.
Long story short, this new Keira Morgana was still a deadly combatant and expert adventurer in her own right, and could easily handle whatever bizarre events befell her as Hero of Chaos. She simply wasn’t going to tempt fate by seeking trouble out, which also meant that she wouldn’t attempt to recover the ‘stolen’ items from the Sandman. A wise decision indeed, though in truth this outcome was never really in doubt. It had, after all, come about as a result of Veronica’s direct interference.
The Goddess of Uncertainty very rarely meddled in the affairs of mortal beings, especially to the extent that she had done with first Boxxy and then Keira. However, whenever she deemed it necessary to do so, Todd was quite thorough and meticulous in his methods. After all, if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right, which in Hector’s case meant ensuring with near-infallible certainty that events developed in accordance with his divine plan. That was the reason why his involvement in any situation practically removed any elements of randomness from it, and the matter of Keira’s rebirth and imminent ‘retirement’ was no different.
Which wasn’t to say that the God of Chance had put shackles on her mind or anything like that. What Tyler had done instead was to expertly sculpt her memories in such a way that the beastkin would use her completely free will to act in precisely the manner that he wanted her to. Rather than a puppet dancing on strings, Keira was more like a ragdoll tumbling down an elaborate slide. She could bounce around all she wished, but there was only one inevitable outcome waiting for her at the bottom.
All things said and done, however, Rupert’s wild ride would only really last until the wedding ended in the manner that he deemed necessary. What Keira did with her life afterwards was something that she would have to figure out for herself, but at present the most significant decision she could make was where to hide that knife. In the end she ended up strapping it to her right thigh so that it would be hidden beneath the flaps of her skirt while being easily accessible. Her ‘pre-wedding jitters’ taken care of, she waited nervously for the ceremony itself to begin.
The long-awaited moment arrived an hour before noon. The guests were welcomed into Nyrie’s temple and filled all of the pews within the main hall. The wooden walls and ceiling were lined with glowing flowers that bathed the interior in a cornucopia of colors, and a small orchestra of formally dressed Bards were performing a soothing symphony. Once everyone was settled in, the band increased their volume and started playing a traditional wedding tune. The buzzing of the crowd died down instantly and they awaited the brides’ arrival with great anticipation.
As was local custom, the grand doors on the sides of the hall flew open and the soon-to-be-newlyweds entered the main hall simultaneously - Keira from the left, and Rowana from the right. The latter was being escorted by Doris, her mother, while the former was accompanied by Elias, the elf bride’s brother. The duty of fulfilling that role had fallen to him when the Great Collapse had unexpectedly claimed his father’s life. Samulus Slyth had been the closest thing to a father that Keira had had, other than perhaps the late Milo Faehorn.
The argument could be made that Boxxy T. Morningwood was technically one of Keira’s parents, but it was best for everyone involved that it was otherwise preoccupied at the moment.
Rowana and Keira met each other in front of the altar and stared into each other’s eyes as the rest of the Slyth family backed off. The redhead had to admit, while she might not have been the biggest fan of her own wedding dress, the elf’s was simply breathtaking. It had the same deliciously revealing style to it as Keira’s, but the white fabric and pink skin created a feast for the eyes unlike anything else the beastkin had ever seen.
“Keira, sweetie,” the elf whispered from underneath her veil. “You’re drooling.”
Though she appreciated the reaction, it was a bit too indecent, given the time and place.
“Oh, crap. Sorry.”
The beastkin reigned in her enthusiasm a bit and turned her attention to the minister from the church of Nyrie. Though marriage was generally considered to be a sacred and religious affair, the officials performing the ceremony could come from any background. Some were better suited to it than others, of course, but being wed under the name of the Goddess of Nature and Fertility was arguably the best option. Or at least it would have been if the fertility part was actually applicable to this particular union, but the minister didn’t seem to mind either way as he began the ceremony.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Keira Morgana and Rowana Slyth, who have decided to come together as one in the bonds of holy matrimony.”
The old elven Priest then proceeded to absolutely nail his part of the ceremony. He carried out the service with confidence, never once letting it slip that he was actually quite nervous about the whole thing. Thankfully he had been informed he would be handling this wedding half a year in advance, which he had spent by getting about twenty Levels in the Bard Job in preparation for the big day. His biggest concern was that there simply were no rituals or customs for having two brides, but Keira had graciously agreed to take the part of a pseudo-groom to make things easier on everyone involved.
After about fifteen minutes of expertly delivered yet nevertheless dull preaching, the ceremony arrived at the pivotal moment - the exchanging of the vows.
“I, Keira Morgana,” the beastkin began, “take you, Rowana Slyth, to be my lawfully wedded wife. I promise to be faithful and loyal, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and cherish you with the entirety of my being until the day I draw my last breath.”
“And I, Rowana Slyth, take you, Keira Morgana, to be my lawfully wedded wife. I vow to always remain by your side, to hold you close and dear to me through poverty and prosperity, in sickness and in health. I offer myself to you, in body, mind, and soul, until death do us part.”
“This servant of Nyrie has heard and witnessed these vows,” the minister took over once again, “as have all honored guests in attendance. If there are those among you that object to this union between Keira and Rowana, then speak now, or forever hold your tongue.”
An oddly tense atmosphere settled into the chamber at those words. It was so eerily silent that one could hear a fly cough. The reason for this was that this was the wedding of the Hero of Chaos. Almost everyone in attendance expected something ridiculous to happen and turn the entire event on its head, and this was the perfect moment for such a disturbance to rear its head. Even the brides were nervous about it, though their veils obscured their worried expressions.
In the end, much to some people’s surprise and others’ disappointment, no such interruption occurred.
“Psst! Mister minister!” Keira whispered sharply.
“Ah, right,” the man remembered his job still wasn’t done. “By the powers vested in me by the Ishigar Republic and the city of Azurvale, I hereby declare Keira and Rowana to be Mrs. and Mrs. Morgana! You may now kiss the bride.”
The newlyweds lifted each other’s veils, held both hands, and locked lips in a deep and passionate kiss. The guests erupted into applause and cheers while the band struck up a fittingly triumphant and celebratory tune. Pink flower petals were released by servants in the rafters, which drifted slowly to the ground. Or at least they would have, if there wasn’t an odd circular draft in the room that was rapidly building up speed. It took the people a little bit, but they did eventually notice the anomalous air current. It was rather impossible not to notice considering the aforementioned flower petals were forming a miniature tornado of pink.
Before anyone could determine whether this was part of the celebration or not, the floral whirlwind burst with a dull pang, a flash of light, and a cloud of pink mist. The smoke and lights rapidly dispersed to reveal a five-meter-tall human-looking woman that gently floated in place next to Keira and Rowana. She had a gentle expression on her beautiful face, her yellow eyes looking upon the couple with a gaze of undeniable kindness. Her obscenely long hair was tied into a pair of ridiculously thick tails and bore a pink hue so vibrant that it seemed to glow. From the neck down she had undeniably attractive, almost succubus-like proportions, and she was clothed in what appeared to be a jeweled belly dancer’s outfit.
This super-sized and clearly mystical stranger’s sudden appearance would typically cause a huge deal of commotion. Having something like this happen was more than enough cause to have the veteran adventurers among the guests flying into action to protect the newlyweds from whatever trickery was afoot. Except that every person in that room was overcome with an odd sense of peace and tranquility. It was as if hostility as a concept no longer existed to them. Even Fizzy, who had been keeping a relatively low profile the entire day, found herself strangely apathetic to the sudden turn of events.
The reason for this, as well as the identity of this visitor, was revealed in the next few moments.
You are in the presence of the Goddess of Love and Mercy. Violence is no longer permitted. FTH +25.
“… Goddess of Love and Mercy?” Keira asked amidst the stunned silence.
“Indeed, my sweet, sweet, Keira,” the deity spoke in a soothing tone. “My name is Helena, and it is the purity and intensity of the feelings that you and your beloved have for one another that have given me enough strength to make myself known to you.”
“Okay… but why?”
“You have both faced hardships and tragedy, but your mutual devotion alone has persisted throughout, as I have no doubt it will continue to do so. Truly… it is a beautiful thing.”
Helena seemed incredibly moved by the whole affair, to the point where she had to wipe away a few tears of joy. This was no mere act, but her sincere feelings. Christie made sure of that when she rehabilitated Eren, the Old God of Destruction, into the voluptuous goddess that was now making her existence known to the world. The people attending this particular wedding had come from all walks of life and from all corners of Terrania and would surely spread word that a new deity had been born.
And in doing so they would unwittingly begin the final phase of Eren’s rehabilitation. The process had started with Overlord Shridiaphrial warping the minds of the Old God’s cult through extremely selective debauchery. The mortals in the remote mountain town of Witchaven had been brainwashed into believing that sex and love were interchangeable, and now partook in the former at every opportunity. The belief of the followers shaped the deity, so the cult’s newfound desire to ‘make love, not war’ had been the first step towards reforming their malicious god.
The second and arguably hardest step had been to ‘convince’ the deity to fully embrace these new concepts that were now creeping into its being. Shridiaphrial had spent every waking moment since Eren’s capture personally ‘attending’ to the old god with the aim of doing just that. Ranker demons had the unique property of being able to directly influence a divine being if they applied the power of their immortal souls correctly, and none were better at this than Overlords. Under the Succubus Queen’s skillful manipulations, Eren had been successfully reforged into Helena. All that was left was to ensure the newly appointed Goddess of Love and Mercy had a strong enough following to keep her from reverting to her original self.
Hence why she was making this extremely public appearance at Keira and Rowana’s wedding. It was an opportunity that had fit perfectly into Wendy’s divine plan. The only problem was that, due to circumstances beyond his control, the central figure of the event had suddenly undergone a drastic change of heart, so to speak. Resolving that issue and ensuring that the wedding went off without a hitch had required some drastic measures.
Which was to say that the whole reason why the God of Probability had turned Keira Morgana into a real person was for this singular moment in time. It wasn’t as if he particularly wanted to pull a dick move on Boxxy by suddenly robbing it of its Facade and Hero titles, but he deemed it a necessary course of action. Giving up the best Hero he’d ever had stung, but Terrence was changing Terrania’s history for countless centuries to come. It was far too important an undertaking to risk over his personal relationship with the statistical hiccup called Boxxy T. Morningwood.
That said, Rosemary still adored that incredibly curious box, and would continue to monitor and broadcast its adventures by using its familiars as focal points for as long as he could.
“So what do you want from us?”
In more current events, and completely oblivious to what was going on behind the scenes, Keira was less than pleased to have this big bimbo steal her spotlight. She was fairly certain that she should be attempting to stab the goddess in her smug face right now. Admittedly it was probably for the best she could not go ‘knifey wifey’ right now, but that didn’t mean she was happy about it. Forced sense of tranquility or not, the redhead still had the logical thinking ability to deduce how she would normally react to this sort of development, and she didn’t appreciate having her free will tampered with.
More importantly she had also realized that this deity most likely had an ulterior motive to showing up, despite giving what appeared to be a heartfelt and sincere speech.
“To uphold your passionate wedding vows to the best of your abilities,” Helena answered. “Nothing more. Nothing less. I have also come bearing a gift most sincere, that I hope you will accept with glee.”
“Alright, let’s have it so you can be on your way,” Keira said with as much force as she could put into her voice.
“Actually… this particular boon is not for you, but for your lovely wife,” the goddess turned her face towards Rowana.
“… Huh? M-me?” the elf asked, stupefied.
“Indeed. Would you accept the honor of championing Love and Mercy as my Hero?”
“Of course!” Rowana shouted without a hint of hesitation. “If it will ensure that I get to spend my days in marital bliss, then I will gladly agree to it!”
“Now wait a minute-!”
Keira attempted to talk some sense into her naive spouse. She had a number of vivid memories of misery brought on by her own divine title and wanted to make sure Rowana didn’t repeat her mistakes, but it was already too late. Helena bent over and blew Rowana a soft kiss, causing a set of disembodied pink lips to float through the air. They dispersed into a light smog that swirled around the elf for a few moments as part of the goddess’s divine spark settled into its new host.
Feat of strength performed! You have unlocked a new Perk: Hero of Love.
Proficiency level increased. Sensory Link is now Level 1.
Proficiency level increased. Hand of Mercy is now Level 1.
Proficiency level increased. Essence Concealment is now Level 1.
The first of the new Skills Rowana had received would make it possible for two people to connect in ways that would otherwise be impossible. While Sensory Link was active, one party would experience everything else that the other was going through. Not only basic senses, such as touch, taste, and smell, but also emotional responses like happiness, sorrow, frustration, and, of course, love. It allowed two people to truly become one in mind and body, and the newlyweds would no doubt find a number of very creative and enjoyable uses for it during their honeymoon.
As for Hand of Mercy, it was a powerful once-per-day healing ability that had the combined potency of a panacea and a rejuvenation potion, but with none of the downsides associated with either concoction.
“Woah!” the elf exclaimed, a huge smile on her face. “I feel… tingly!”
“I am sure many blessed days await you both, my dear,” Helena smiled. “I would also greatly appreciate it if you paid a visit to my cute followers at the town of Witchaven at some point after your honeymoon, but for now, I should not take up any more of your special day. Farewell, and may peace be with you.”
And with those final words, Helena’s form vanished like a mirage, and the aura of tranquility she had bathed the temple in disappeared with it. The guests, who had been left speechless during that exchange, now erupted into an even louder deluge of applause and congratulations than they had previously. Not all of them were pleased to have their emotions toyed with, but this development was far too exciting to fret over the details. Or the consequences, for that matter.
Of course, the Morgana family had their own thoughts on the matter, as did those among the attendees that were on a first-name basis with one or both of the brides.
“Ugh… I just hope our lovemaking doesn’t trigger a Clash of Fate or something,” Keira grumbled under her breath as she walked down the central aisle.
“We’ll certainly find that out soon enough,” Rowana bit her lip in anticipation while holding her wife close. “That dress is staying on the entire night, by the way.”
“I see, so some stranger showed up and coerced my daughter into a shady contract,” Doris cracked her knuckles. “I’ve never punched a god in the face before. Do you think they bleed rainbows?”
“Easy now, Mother. I’m sure sister-in-law has things under control,” Elias reassured her in a low voice. “What I’m worried about is how pissed off Keira will be when I start leveraging Rowana’s new position to sell an obscene amount of our beauty products.”
Lia didn’t say or do much - she just stood in her spot near the altar with a dopey, spaced-out look on her face that seemed to imply she was utterly convinced this was all just a silly dream.
Well, that just happened, Fizzy remarked inwardly. At least that rookie goddess won’t be Boxxy’s problem. Or mine, for that matter. Really dodged a Fireball on that one.
“Really?” Sigmund cringed. “I get that she’s the Hero of Chaos and I know there’s a Shift happening and all, but… REALLY?!”
“Hah hah hah haaaaah!” Orrin let out a jolly laugh. “Chin up, Sigmund! Today is a day for celebration like no other! We’ll party so hard we might cause an international incident or two!”
“This Helena better be able to help me out with the polygamy thing, or I’m done for,” Nao murmured in a depressed voice.
“Wow! So they loved each other so hard they boinked a goddess into existence?” Madeline asked excitedly.
“What are you- No, that’s not how that works,” Lydia hastily corrected her. “That’s not how that works at all!”
“What I don’t get is how she can be a goddess of Love and Misery. That combination makes no sense,” Robin remarked, having somehow misunderstood the deity’s domains.
“Yes! I called it!” Kaede cheered. “I just won the entire damned betting pool!”
Some guests had gotten together to place bets on who or what would crash the wedding and the young nosferata had been the only one to put money down on a deity making a personal appearance. She had figured literally anything could happen after noticing Keira’s drastic yet subtle transformation and had gone for the most ridiculous thing she could think of. Her wild guess had paid off big time, as she was now poised to collect a hefty sum to the tune of seven thousand GP. Gux, on the other hand, had missed the entire thing. Remotely viewing the day’s proceedings with his Ultimate Skill had proven to be rather mentally taxing, and the old raptor had ended up dozing off during the minister’s initial speech.
As for the clergyman in question, he had been left with a great many questions. He had no reason to doubt his eyes, but it was still an unbelievable occurrence. Gods showing themselves to mortals like that was the stuff of legends, myths, and fiction. One thing was for certain though - he would make sure to personally lead a missionary expedition to this town of Witchaven that the Goddess of Love and Mercy had mentioned. It was important to investigate whether this new religion was legitimate or not, and if it was, then it was vital that information regarding their numbers and beliefs was brought back to the Republic.
Incidentally, this decision had very little to do with the fact that Helena had appeared directly above the minister’s head and had inadvertently given him a clear view up her skirt.
That said, the Priest’s sudden interest in her followers’ stance on the necessity of underwear was another case entirely.